It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but kids – like adults – who are obese or have high cholesterol show early warning signs of heart disease. A study presented at the American Heart Association meeting that we attended recently in New Orleans showed the thickness of artery walls of kids and teenagers who are obese or have high cholesterol resembled the thickness of artery walls of the average 45-year-old. WHEW. This is not the first time kids have been studied (and only a mere 70 subjects) but it was the first time results have been correlated to adults.
Dr. David Ludwig, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard who was a co-author of a 2005 study predicting that obesity could shorten the average child’s lifespan by two to five years, said this study added significant hard data which has been lacking in the field. The lead author of the study, Dr. Geetha Raghuveer, described the results as a “red flag”. It’s too early to tell if this generation of American children will suffer more heart attacks, strokes, or other heart problems (or at an earlier date), most researchers find the growing corroboration of links between childhood obesity and heart disease alarming. Most of the alarm comes from not only the length of harm to the body but also because at the stage in life, children’s bodies are still forming and physiological systems are still being fine-tuned. But Dr. Raghuveer says hope is not lost, and expressed hope for the opportunity to implement lifestyle alternations “be it exercise, be it diet, or perhaps medication. Perhaps it may be reversed.” This new data reflects a growing mass of data that reinforces the dangers of poor eating and sedentary behavior.